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The partnership between Dublin City University and European Space Agency (ESA) is succeeding in providing the launch-pad for Irish companies to increase their engagement with emerging space-related technologies.
As a result of the inaugural Satcom/IoT ‘Maker Space’ incubator at DCU Alpha, the university’s Innovation Campus, up to three-quarters of original participating companies are now re-engaging with ESA for follow-on or associated space-related tech projects. If successful, these follow-on projects could garner up to €1.5 million in additional technology development funding.
On 7th of December 2018, DCU Alpha hosted the final outcome presentation of the Satcom/IoT ‘Maker Space’ projects, with delegates from ESA and Enterprise Ireland joining the event. The presentation showcased the work undertaken by the ‘Maker Space’ participants and outlined some of the ambitious plans for developing further Space technology opportunities through ESA programmes. The potential for another incubator programme at DCU Alpha, this time focused on the integration of 5G with Satcom technologies, was also highlighted.
The SatCom/IoT ‘Maker Space’ programme, established in April 2017, was a partnership between Dublin City University and ESA, with financial support through Enterprise Ireland’s National Space Delegation to ESA. The initiative provided opportunities for rapid prototyping and validation of challenging innovative technologies proposed by ESA and DCU, which were targeted at industry, space-tech entrepreneurs, academics and the wider ‘Maker’ movement.
Speaking at the event, President of DCU, Professor Brian MacCraith said:
“DCU is extremely pleased with the success of the inaugural SatCom/IoT ‘Maker Space’ programme and of the follow-on activities which are now facilitating Irish businesses and startups in participating more easily in the rapidly expanding space-tech industry. The programme is a testament to DCU’s reputation as Ireland’s University of Enterprise and our commitment to stimulate and support new technological advances to propel Irish businesses and startups forward. It is of note that, through this particular programme, Irish businesses are now engaging with ESA and competing, with other organisations from around Europe, for a series of exciting new projects in the space industry.”
To date, eight Irish companies have successfully completed ESA-designed challenges and three-quarters are earmarked for further collaborations and projects with ESA. Participants included DCU student spin-out company Robotify, who teach children how to code using remote internet connected robots; DCU Alpha based company Firmwave, who examined the use of software updates to bluetooth beacons over satellite; and Ammeon, who developed a blockchain test bed for M2M/IoT over satellite.
Domenico Mignolo and Frank Zeppenfeldt of the ESA Directorate of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications emphasised that, “This new way of working – enabled by the ARTES IoT/M2M ‘Maker Space’ – has proven to be very successful in scouting for smaller companies and individuals who can provide innovative ideas and technology to the European Satcom market.”
The SatCom/IoT ‘Maker Space’ programme was the first of its kind in Europe and represents a means for smaller organisations to engage with ESA without undertaking onerous contractual and bureaucratic processes, whilst creating a pathway for newcomers to engage with exciting, leading edge projects that have a space-related theme.
Recent findings from Statista show that there will an estimated 75 billion IoT enabled devices in use by 2025. These will require both terrestrial and satellite communications, all of which highlights the importance of accelerating research and development in this area.
Enterprise Ireland co-ordinates Ireland’s industrial and research participation in the programmes of ESA in collaboration with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The purpose of Ireland’s membership of ESA is to participate in European space programmes with a focus on facilitating innovative Irish operations to develop leading edge space technologies; and to commercially exploit their ESA participation in global space and non-space markets, leading to increased export sales and employment. Enterprise Ireland’s role in relation to ESA is to assist Irish operations to successfully bid for ESA contracts, providing expertise for Irish operations and researchers in developing and executing space strategies, as well as being a point of reference for the international space industry when they want to identify relevant sources of space-related expertise within Ireland. Irish industrial and research participation in ESA covers a range of sectors and technology areas including software, precision mechanical engineering, telecommunications, electronics, optoelectronics, advanced materials and also end user equipment, services and applications.